Thursday, September 30, 2021

In nine images: A visit to historic St. John's Episcopal Church

The exterior of the church, near downtown Columbia, Tenn.

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The baptismal font.
I’ve visited the cemetery behind St. John's Episcopal Church in Ashwood, Tenn., a dozen or so times. That's where Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne, a Battle of Franklin victim on November 30, 1864, was buried until the Irish-born soldier’s 1870 exhumation and re-burial in Helena, Ark. A visit to the graves of slaves here, in a separate area from the white burials, is especially meaningful for me.

I recently spent time inside this magnificent plantation church, completed in 1842 for the Polk brothers, whom you can read about here in my Rambling column for Civil War Times magazine. True story: A U.S. Army soldier tooted on a pipe he swiped from the church organ as he marched up Mount Pleasant Pike, which was used often by both armies. You can see the pike in the image I shot through a second-floor window of the church. Slaves worshipped here, too.

In 2001, according to the Episcopal church web site, teen vandals broke windows, damaged the beautiful baptismal font, tossed the organ from the second-floor loft into the sanctuary floor below, and toppled tombstones in the graveyard. The men were arrested and charged. The community, regardless of denomination, cleaned up the church and made repairs. Donations covered the cost.

The church is used once a year for services.

The magnificent exterior.
Nearly all the interior is original, including these pews.
A view of the altar.
A view of the interior of the Gothic Revival-style church.
Shadows on the original pews.
A view from the second-floor loft.
A view of Mount Pleasant Pike from a second-floor window. The pike was used by both armies.

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  1. G'Day John,

    As good as being there!

    Thanks John.

    Cheers, Rob


  2. Even in photos, you can feel the history.